When all is said and done, the college football team rated the best in the land practically all season, wound up the champion after all.
Sure, there was drama as the end was in sight in the final month, but when the dust cleared in Indianapolis last Monday, there was no doubt.
The Georgia Bulldogs won the national championship over Alabama, 33-18, responding to the lingering question as to whether they could avenge their only loss, a 41-24 thrashing to the Crimson Tide in the SEC title game.
Georgia wins title!
They did, in decisive fashion.
Outsiders seem to always feel that a crushing defeat leaves the victim so wounded and demoralized that there is no way they can recover.
But that’s why they are outsiders.
The truth is, unless you are with a team day-to-day, and are aware of how they operate and go about their business, it is all guesswork.
Only those on the inside, know what truly is going on.
In Georgia’s case, they took their beating in December and worked that much harder to come back with the showing they exhibited last Monday.
Actually, there is a more logical case to be made that a team that triumphs with relative ease, may find it harder to dig down deep in a rematch.
I’ve always felt that winning in a rout is not as accurate a barometer than coming out on top by the skin of your teeth.
When a team can win while not playing well, that’s a good sign of how good they are.
I think the word is hunger, and that’s what Georgia had.
Probably the same people who gave the Bulldogs little chance think Alabama is injured beyond repair looking ahead.
The Tide now has a purpose going into the 2022 campaign.
That’s why ‘Bama head coach Nick Saban could handle the championship game result.
Coaches understand that losing big games are part of their life.
Especially in this case. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was an assistant under Saban for many years, but couldn’t beat the master in their four previous meetings.
Kirby and Nick
He finally did, and Saban, not for show, expressed how proud he was that a former associate was good enough to beat Nick’s team.
The game itself was a defensive struggle in the first half.
No touchdowns were scored in the first 30 minutes.
There were a few successful big passing plays, but no sustained drives.
In that first half, Alabama lost one of their top weapons when wide receiver Jameson Williams left with a knee injury and didn’t return.
Another big-time receiver John Metchie III was lost during the regular season.
There was no question this hurt the Alabama attack.
Faced with having to play inexperienced pass-catchers in the greatest spotlight was a blow to the Tide.
But, as we know, injuries are a factor in all sports, and in this case, did not determine the final result.
Georgia’s defense was simply too strong, as they were all year.
Alabama’s Heisman-winning quarterback Bryce Young was overshadowed by the Bulldogs’ QB Stetson Bennett IV.
Bennett’s story may be the best in college football this year.
Growing up in Blackshear, Ga., he had the dream of someday playing for his beloved Bulldogs.
But he was overlooked, and practically ignored out of high school.
He earned a spot as a walk-on at Athens, ran the scout squad that runs the opponent’s attack so that the starting defensive unit can get ready.
Bennett saw the writing on the wall.
Knowing he was never going to start, transferred to a junior college, only to return a year later. Still determined. Undeterred.
But he still could not break through.
Finally, Stetson Bennett IV found himself thrust into the starting lineup when their offensive leader JT Daniels was injured.
The immense Georgia fan base was not pleased.
Even less so when Bennett threw two interceptions against ‘Bama in the SEC championship game.
One was in the red zone when the Bulldogs were hopefully on their way to a score, the other resulted in a pick-six for Alabama.
That interception was returned for a touchdown.
So, imagine the pressure on this kid as he faced the defending national champions in the biggest game of all.
It wasn’t all glory. He did fumble, which ‘Bama rapidly turned into a go-ahead TD five minutes into the fourth quarter.
Considering all the obstacles he had faced in his football career, you had to know he would come back strong.
And he did.
On the next series, he started the drive with an 18-yard completion and two plays later found Adonai Mitchell for a 40-yard score.
That TD pass put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.
Bennett threw another touchdown pass to give Georgia an 8-point lead with four minutes to play.
Alabama still had a chance.
But an interception and 79-yard score wrapped up the contest.
20 unanswered points turned a tight game into a national title for Georgia, their first since Herschel Walker’s freshman year in 1980, when the Bulldogs capped an undefeated season beating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.
So, the college football season is history.
Finally, The Champions
For a sport that carries so much excitement each week from the big cities to the small towns in America, there is more grumbling and criticism than in any other sport.
It seems no one is ever happy.
Either there aren’t enough teams in the playoffs, or the bowl games have too many blowouts, or the same teams play for the national title every year, it’s always something.
I guess you can’t please everyone.
I say, you can always look to improve the product and that’s what those who run college football are trying to do.
But in the meantime, let’s enjoy what we have.
In this year’s case, two powers from the same conference collided in a championship game, in a rematch that went the opposite way of their first game, coached by two friends who worked side-by-side for years, and one which featured a wonderful story of a youngster who had a dream, overcame many obstacles, only to see his dream come true.
In ultimate fashion.